Monday, November 30, 2009

Pumpkin Soup--Making up for Thanksgiving Weekend or Moving from Thanksgiving to Advent

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie...
Unless, of course, they passed around the coffee and the pumpkin pie once too often. I still have some pumpkin and pecan pie left in my refrigerator. Also one slice of the Italian Chocolate-Hazelnut torte; I promised the last slice to my son... Luckily, the rest of the leftovers are gone, G-O-N-E. Except for the extra pan of Cauliflower Gratinee that's in the freezer. (Somewhat like gold in Ft. Knox in our house.)...and the two or three homemade crescent rolls that I couldn't throw away. Could you?
This week marks the week half the people in the United States say, "The diet starts today; I don't care about the holidays." Maybe you won't stick to that after all, even if you are still full. But perhaps you'd like something light, delicious, healthy and capable of using up a bit more of the canned pumpkin you stockpiled because you heard (here) there'd be a shortage. You're in luck.
I've got a scrumptious, somewhat unusual pumpkin soup that will serve for a super week-after-Thanksgiving dinner or as a first course for some December meal. You can double it and use it for both; it freezes beautifully. It's done in under a half an hour, but can simmer longer if you want to smell that incredible aroma a bit longer. You certainly could throw it in the crock-pot and have it wafting all day long while you decorate, clean (I clean now, not in the spring) or go off to work or the stores. It's great if you've decided, against all odds, to switch three rooms in your house right now, as I have.... What was I thinking???? What possesses us to totally create havoc in our lives during Advent? Answers welcome.
( Cook's Note: If you choose the crock-pot route, add the milk right before serving and let heat a bit longer.)
I know, I know. You almost made pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving and it's in a lot of restaurants. I'm guessing chances are you DIDN'T make the soup for Thanksgiving and, if you had it in a restaurant, why not try this recipe? I think you might like it better if you make it yourself. I did. Leave out the peanut butter if doesn't sound good to you.
Sides: Cranberry Muffins, of course
Wine: Off-dry or halb-trocken Riesling
serves 6 for a 1 c first course; served 3-4 for main course
1/2 large onion, halved again
2 stalks of celery, cut into thirds
2 large carrots, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 c fresh parsley
1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/4's (reserve peel)
6 sage leaves (1/2 t dry)
2 sprigs thyme (or 1 t dry)
1T olive oil
15 oz can pumpkin
2 t peanut butter
1 qt chicken broth, low sodium
1/2 c evaporated non-fat milk
1 t salt; 1/2 t pepper
3-4 drops Tabasco, to taste
Garnish: 4T freshly grated parmesan
2T chopped peanuts
Pulverize first eight ingredients (onions-thyme) in food processor until almost pureed. In stockpot, pour olive oil; heat over medium heat. Add pureed vegetable mixture and apple peel; saute 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pumpkin, broth and peanut butter. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove apple peel. Add evaporated milk and season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Heat through and serve in warmed bowls. Top with either parmesan or chopped peanuts or both.
Our hearts are light as we travel from giving thanks to preparing to welcome a much-needed savior into our hearts...
Starting the walk to the stable and singing a new song,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving-An Intimate View

Thanksgiving by Walt Waldo Emerson

For each morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends.

Visiting my friend Sue last month, we talked a little about Thanksgiving.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I don't know; I haven't decided. I would so like something really simple," said she.

"I know exactly what you should make," said I.
Well, of course, I had the idea and, truthfully, had done something like it before, but I had to flesh out the menu and, naturally, try it all out. And, while I adore Thanksgiving, I know it can get out of hand. You don't know it's gotten out of hand until you start the dishes and are still washing glasses the next day. Mostly, it's worth it. Occasionally, though, you want a holiday to BE a holiday for everyone, including you. Well, you and one other person, a special one.

This menu is for that Thanksgiving. I include directions for a Thanksgiving for two, which is delectable. To be two, I mean--and, yes, the food, is, too. I'd say it's more for two with plenty of leftovers, so perhaps I'd say there's enough for four people. The whole thing easily doubles to serve eight and so on. I began cooking this meal at 6pm and we sat down (after taking boocoo pics) at 8:15. I had time in there to have a glass of wine and a couple of teensy starters, though I did have to set the table earlier in the day. I think it could have been done more quickly if I had had the recipes worked out ahead; I was improvising and writing as I went. If you try it, let me know the time!

I had so much fun doing this meal. Isn't that what it's about? Hope you do, too.


  • Starters:Olives and Pistachios--set out in small bowls with wine
  • First course: Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Soup (bought from deli)
  • Main course: Turkey Roulade, stuffed W/ Proscuitto/Sage/Onions/Garlic
  • Sides: Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables with Fresh Rosemary
  • Brussel Sprouts (pan-roasted) w/ Parmesan & Pumpkin Seeds
  • Home-made Spicy Cranberry Sauce w/ Apples and Lemon
  • Bread: Corn Muffins from the bakery
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Ice Cream, purchased from grocery OR Pumpkin Custards baked the day before and refrigerated (Use any pumpkin pie filling recipe and bake custards in pammed ramekins about 30 min. at 350---No crust)
  • Drinks: Wine: A to Z Riesling and Sineann Pinot Noir- Have both! Coffee: French Roast, laced with Cognac and Whipped Cream
Cook's Hint: Get the turkey and root vegetables in the oven and then make the brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Set the coffee up to be ready to push the button as soon as the meal is done. If you had no time to set the table, get your friend to do it while you cook! He or she is in charge of the wine, too. Why not?


2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
5 new potatoes, cut into fourths (don't peel)
2T olive oil
1t Kosher salt
1/2 t freshly-ground pepper
3T fresh rosemary, minced

Place all vegetables on a large, rimmed baking sheet, mixing them well. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Using your hands, toss. Bake about 40 minutes until tender. You can cook these at the same time you roast the turkey; times are similar. Put these in the top oven rack and put the turkey in the bottom of the oven.


1 boneless turkey breast 3-4 pounds
6 slices proscuitto
3T olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, sliced very finely
Kosher Salt
Freshly-ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a small skillet, cook onion for five minutes in 1T olive oil. Add garlic and sage and saute until onion is limp. Set aside.

Lay turkey breast out flat and roll with a rolling pin until breast flattens out a little. You might need to pound it lightly. Salt and pepper the turkey well. Lay the proscuitto on breast, one piece at a time to cover, and top with the onion-sage-garlic mix. Using both hands, roll breast up gently to form a roll @5 " thick, placing seam at bottom. Cut four 15" pieces of kitchen twine. Slip each piece of twine under the turkey roll and tie roll together gently in four places, spacing the ties out evenly. Salt and pepper well.

Place other 2T olive oil in roasting pan and warm over medium heat on stovetop. Gently remove turkey roll to the pan and brown for 4-5 minutes, searing meat. Turn over and salt and pepper that side as well. Brown again for 4-5 minutes.

Place in bottom third of 400F oven and bake another 35-40 minutes until thermometer registers 160. (Your root vegetables are in the top of this oven) Remove from oven and let rest five minutes or so. Slice into about eight slices or as you desire.

If vegetables are done, you can still leave them in to keep very warm while the turkey rests.


12 fresh brussel sprouts, cleaned and trimmed (Take l layer of leaves off and
cut off bottom tiny core) and cut in half
2T olive oil
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, "grated" in long pieces with a potato peeler
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add brussel sprouts. Stirring frequently to avoid burning, but still to brown nicely, cook brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes. Add parmesan and pumpkin seeds. Turn down heat to medium-low and cook until sprouts are fairly well-done, but still somewhat crispy. Take care to not burn the parmesan; it should be quite brown. Salt and pepper well.

Homemade Spicy Cranberry Sauce with Lemon and Apple

1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 c brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, cut into fourths
1/2 large apple, diced, leaving peel on
1/8-1/4 t red pepper flakes to taste

In large, deep skillet, place cranberries. Add water to cover well only. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let boil 2-3 minutes and lower heat to simmer. Cover and simmer until fruit is tender and liquid is syrupy, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room-temperature. Also good cold.

--Cook's Note:

Easy to serve the meat and all the vegetables on one big platter:

Very easy!!! Here are my pumpkin custards.... Pie without crust.

"There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy:
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie."
(well, almost!)

Some Thanksgiving Books You Might Enjoy (in no order):
CRANBERRY THANKSGIVING, by Wende and Harry Devlin. (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1971; also Aladdin Paperbacks, 1990)
This book contains a great cranberry bread recipe....

GIVING THANKS: THANKSGIVING RECIPES AND HISTORY, FROM PILGRIMS TO PUMPKIN PIE, by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation. (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2005)

THANKSGIVING 101, by Rick Rodgers. (New York: William Morrow, 2007; also in 1998 by Broadway Books)

HAPPILY GRATEFUL, compiled by Dan Zedra and Kristel Wills (Seattle: Compendium, 2009)

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING by Jean Craighead George; illus. by Thomas Locker. (New York, Putnam, 1993)

Some random thoughts about Thanksgiving------

Thanksgiving as a spiritual discipline or as a way of life is something quite interesting and lovely on which to meditate. Try it; I'd love to know what comes up.
Here are a couple of my thoughts:

I think thanksgiving is a way of living responsibly...

As a faithful person, I know I am healthier when I have a grateful heart. To not be grateful in all circumstances introduces the possibility of becoming a victim-- to which there is no solution or cure.

When I live thankfully, I then live in a better place in all ways.
We all just keep working on it!
Thanksgiving, it's not just for dinner anymore.

Sing a new song as you give thanks,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Helen and Alyce's Lentil Soup/Princeton-NY Trip

Central Park in the Fall--More Princeton/NY pics at bottom

Here's the soup and recipe!

They go together

I have a great friend named Helen Aldrich. Once, many years ago, her husband Jim, my friend Sue (of Sue’s ribs), and I spent years traveling to and from D.C. on a clap-trap, stinky commuter bus. We talked books, politics, religion, love, kids and spouses. We often stopped for coffee together before heading to work (sometimes making us late). Bit by bit, our families, too, came together and we have all been friends now for a long time.

Vacations at the beach together include taking a turn in the kitchen.

The following soup recipe is one of Helen’s beach offerings, tweaked by me at home over the years. ( I also do a vegetarian lentil based on this recipe; I’ll include those directions, too.) It seemed to me that this soup makes more sense in the fall or winter than in the summer, but we've eaten it both ways.

Tree at Princeton--Is this a perfect fall picture or what?

Whenever you decide to make it, it's one of the quickest and most welcoming legume soups you'll ever make or eat. Double the recipe and have friends in on a weeknight. (You could give a pot away to a neighbor who doesn't cook .)

I love you, darlin’. (Something Helen says often to all of us.)

(Kurt, are the pina coladas ready?)

Helen and Alyce’s Lentil Soup

1# lentils, any color
2 qts beef broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer it; use gluten-free if needed)
1 onion, chopped
1 c carrots, chopped
2 c celery, chopped
1 T garlic, minced
1 15 oz tomatoes, diced
1 lrg. potato, cubed (optional)
2T each: Fresh rosemary, chopped and Fresh sage, chopped *

Mix together in 6 or 8 quart stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to simmer and cook about 30 minutes or so until vegetables are becoming tender.
1# pork bulk breakfast sausage
½ # Andoille or kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces (could also use part of a ham steak, minced)

Brown breakfast sausage in skillet until done; drain. Add to stockpot along with cut Andoille or kielbasa.   Season pot with salt and pepper – and/orTabasco--- to taste.

If soup is becoming too thick, add water or more beef or chicken broth.
Continue to simmer until lentils are tender.

Crock-pot option: Make as above, but cook in 6 qt. crock-pot on low for 4-5 hrs instead of for 30 minutes on stove-top.
*If using dried herbs, cut amounts in half
Nice side: cornbread with honey

For vegetarian option, omit meat (duh) and add sautéed, chopped zucchini and or eggplant cooked in a little olive oil . Add toward end of cooking.


For those of you interested in our visit to the east coast last week, I include a few pictures and a couple of comments here. My camera was fritzing; these are from my cell:

For starters, it was an incredibly lovely weekend to hit New York in the fall. To see our daughter was the best treat, but to see her at seminary (and in her own adult environment) was beautiful and comforting! Part of campus below; white columned building is the chapel.

Above: eating corned beef at the Carnegie Deli. What else for NY lunch?

Above: Dave at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, ready for the NY Philharmonic. The usher scolded me for taking pictures..........

Above: Alyce and Emily -Fountain at Lincoln Center

Dave and Alyce- behind the Tavern on the Green with a familiar NY character

Above: Emily and Dave enjoying Central Park

Above: Emily ready for her first time at a Broadway show................ Wicked!

Lovely visit all around. We also found time for brunch with family in Brooklyn, a late night dinner at Nizza (go Nizza!!!) and lots of the best people watching in the world.
Sing a new song; make a fall trip. If you can't go away, make my fall soup!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Plum-Peach-Blueberry Crunch

Sometimes it doesn’t matter that it looks like fall, feels like fall, well, in fact, izzzzzzzzz fall. There’s still a little leftover from summer and harvest to make a luscious fruit dessert. Maybe you've even been toting your herbs or flowers in and off the porch for a couple of weeks, just getting the last few rays of sun and summer. I know a few folks who are doing that!
Of course, we can make apple or pumpkin whatever all late summer and fall long or use winter squash in a variety of sweet and savory ways. But stretching out late harvest bounty makes those particular foods just all the more precious. There is an old Irish tune, "The Last Rose of Summer." Of course, as I’ve been in Princeton and New York for five days visiting our daughter at seminary, I haven’t been cooking summer or fall food for a while. ( I’ll get my pictures (and ducks) in a row and fill you in on the trip in a few days.) In some little corner of a protected Princeton yard, though, I saw exactly that rose... several of them, in fact. Tiny, little "old" roses, faded pink, but still on the bush. Really.
Meantime, I thought I’d blog a dessert I made just about two weeks ago when, you’ll remember, there were still peaches in the stores. Maybe they were "The Last Peach(es) of summer!" I began by looking at a Plum Crunch Ina Garten had made on tv and found the recipe in her BACK TO BASICS COOKBOOK. I didn’t really have all of the ingredients, so I began to experiment a bit. Mixing fruits, cutting sugar… You get the idea.
Well, I did have some of those last peaches that had held up beautifully, but needed to be used. Definitely plums to be had then--- and now. And, you can, if you care to pay, get blueberries most anytime. (I freeze them when they’re plentiful and cheap, baking them frozen.) If you can't get any peaches where you are (this is November), try this with just plums and blueberries. It can be made ahead, even frozen, and would make a lovely addition to the Thanksgiving dessert spread with a snippet of freshly whipped cream or a spoonful of real good vanilla ice cream. If you can get the entire mix of fruits or just part, this is a delectable and homey dessert served anytime. The topping is quite thick and crunchy and almost seems like a super oatmeal cookie (or top of the hill granola) on top of soft, sweet fruit despite my cutting the sweetness. Thanks, Ina.

Peach-Plum-Blueberry Crunch
Serves 8

8 holiday plums, peeled and cut into fourths*
2 peaches, peeled and cut into eighths
½ c blueberries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup flour
2/3 c white, granulated sugar
6T Brandy

1 ½ c unbleached, white flour
½ c ea granulated white and light brown sugar, packed
½ t kosher salt
1 c old-fashioned oats
½ c chopped pecans
2 sticks (1c) cold butter, cut into pieces.

8 scoops vanilla ice cream or 1 c whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray the inside of a 2qt or 12x8” baking dish.

Combine fruit, ¼ c flour, sugar and brandy. Pour into baking dish.

In food processor, fitted with metal blade, measure flour, sugars, and oats; pulse lightly to blend. Add cut butter and pulse until the mixture begins to come together, crumbling with butter the size of peas. Remove blade and gently stir in pecans. Pour over the fruit mixture and spread evenly.

Bake it for about 35 minutes, checking for bubbling fruit and browning top. Let cool for at least a half an hour before serving. Good warm or at room temperature, with or without whipped cream or ice cream. If you want to freeze it, cool completely, cover with two layers of foil and freeze for 4-6 weeks. Let unthaw, covered, completely before serving.

*If using all plums, increase plums from 8 to 12.

Caught between the bounty of summer's harvest and the watchful, waiting Advent brings, I made this dessert one day and went to rehearsal to practice the Christmas portion of "The Messiah." Working behind and ahead! can be an unusual process for a faithful cook.

The fruits of our labors... and the labors of others. Enjoyed together....
Current Reading: THE SWEET LIFE IN PARIS, by David Leibovitz
Even if you aren't a baker (or cook), read this lovely
memoiry book full of heart-holding stories of figuring
out life in a strange land and, of course, recipes that
make your mouth go "La, la la la la!!!"
Sing a new song; mix some new fruit, read David's book today----

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Which "Pho?" or 4 Meals at our House


Do you want your mouth to sing? What melody (or harmony?) would you like?

If you like to frequent places called things like

Restaurant Saigon or
Vietnamese Café……..

and haven’t a clue from where those flavors come (but wish you did or want to know how to get them in your mouth totally fast……)
------------------------------------------------- then this blog is for you.

I really like cooking things I’ve never cooked before. I also really like (and my husband is crazy about) Vietnamese food, at least the sort of Vietnamese food found in Vietnamese restaurants in the United States. Give me a bun (bowl), an intensely fragrant soup showered with or poured over herbs and greens and I am in a happy land. If it’s the burn the skin off the roof of your mouth variety, I’m outa there. This soup, however, is breathable love.

I recently made THE SPLENDID TABLE’S (of NPR fame) version called “Pho,” pronounced “fuh.” We were tantalized. Harmonized. Unable to speak for eating. So, I made it again and again... Each time in a simpler version. Maybe better.

Here's the story:

(This is from their book, HOW TO COOK DINNER- published last year.)

The method was a kinda shortened version of the real deal Asian noodle chefs make, which is a long process. The synopsis might read like the following:

Broil, yep, broil a sliced onion, a bruised (I pounded mine with a chef’s knife?) star anise, a few sliced garlic cloves, a couple of grinds of pepper, 6 whole cloves and 2-3” of thinly sliced ginger on a large, rimmed baking sheet or heavy-duty foil. Scrape all that in a small pot of chicken stock with some fish sauce and sugar; cook 20 min. Fix some rice noodles (let sit in very hot water; drain).

To the BIG bowls out of which you’ll be eating , add raw, thinly sliced top round. and divide the noodles between the big bowls

----------------Yes, this really does work. Even at altitude.

Pour the very hot, boiling soup over the noodles and raw beef. Serve with a “table salad” plateful of…

cilantro -- mint -- fresh basil------ bean sprouts and------ so on

Folks can choose the greens they want; you can ad lib. I used some spinach for nutritional value.

Sauces at the table would be:

--Hoisin and/or --Hot Sauce

Please buy the cookbook for the great, full version and all the rest of the super stuff in it. After another summer in Minnesota, I’m absolutely addicted to “Splendid Table.” On at 10am-Sundays- on NPR (91.5) here in Co. Springs.

-------The little black things are broiled whole cloves and pieces of star anise.


NOW THEN, we liked this so much, we fixed it another night with some boneless chicken thighs (the recipe said you could), but we had to throw the whole mess back in the pot to cook the chicken. It wouldn’t cook in the bowls. Insert appropriate lovely language here. We’re at altitude. It was a great idea because we had all of these herbs, etc, sitting in the frig. I was thinking we needed to do this when we had a garden; there were nearly $12 worth of fresh herbs for this Why not try it again?
(We should have used boneless breasts—afterthought. They cook faster than thighs, which are dark meat.)

Well--- We adored it. Except for having to cook it in the pot. In fact, we liked it better the second night.

(What I’m not saying is how good this soup made us feel. It was delicious, tummy-warming, mouth-humming, filling, nutritious, not fattening….)

Meal #3 : Grilled Chicken Thighs with Zucchini and Mushrooms

At that point, said dinner partner went on a business trip leaving me with a few uncooked chicken thighs and some zucchini and mushrooms in the frig. I grilled the chicken and sautéed the veg and ate it all with a nice Australian Shiraz and a captivating book (THE HELP) and thoroughly enjoyed a night all by myself.
Ok, this is nothing earth-shattering, but it was quite tasty!

Next day , I spent doing household chores and sipping hot tea while a winter storm raged. Half-way through the blustery hours of short daylight, I decided to make a big pot of chili and freeze it for Halloween, when our grandson and his parents were coming for dinner and trick or treating. Why not get it done early? Meantime, I got hungry and the chili was not ready to eat. What for lunch? Why not a REALLY quick version of PHO, using my leftover grilled chicken and veg? It worked like a charm and here is how I did it. You can now do it, too. You could use leftover rotisserie chicken from the deli; it would be fine. Enjoy it soon. Tell me about it. I'm thinking of trying shrimp next.

serves 2


1 thinly sliced onion
1 star anise
6 cloves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2” fresh ginger, sliced thinly
Several grind of black pepper

Box of chicken stock
2 t fish sauce (bottled Asian condiment)
2T sugar

½ box rice-wheat Udon noodles (or whole-wheat linguine)

2-3 chicken thighs, cooked and thinly sliced (or any cooked chicken--perhaps
think left-over turkey Thanksgiving weekend)

You can ad lib herbs and greens, even using chopped iceberg, as some restaurants do, but I used:

Cilantro, Basil, Mint (all fresh and chopped or whole, as desired)
Thinly sliced scallions
2 cups fresh spinach
¼ c alfalfa sprouts
2 slices fresh lime

At table:
Hoisin Sauce, (another bottled Asian condiment)
Tabasco (if desired)


In the bottom of a 4-qt. saucepan, place everything in the first group of ingredients (onion-ground pepper), heat pan over medium heat, stirring ingredients nearly constantly. You must do this carefully as there is NO fat in this pan. Turn heat off when edges of onion are blackened. Add chicken stock (careful!), fish sauce and sugar. Bring to boil; cover and lower heat to simmer for 7 minutes. Add noodles and stir. Cook another 6 minutes or so until noodles are done (whole wheat linguine will take more time; you might want to break it in half).

To each serving (big) bowl, add 1 c fresh spinach and some cooked chicken. Divide broth and noodles between the bowls and top with desired herbs/greens. Add sauce(s) if desired and squeeze lime over all.

What NEW song is your mouth singing?